Imran's personal blog

May 24, 2017

Why I’m running for City Council

Filed under: Uncategorized — ipeerbhai @ 8:23 am

Imran Peerbhai Picture

 

 

Hi,

I’m Imran Peerbhai.  and I am running for Kirkland City Council, Position 7.  But you knew that already!

So, why am I running?  I, like the other candidates running for position 7, believe the city is well-run.  We’re blessed by strong government and economic growth!  I would like to keep it that way.  When I was pondering about running for office, I ran through a list of hopes and fears.  To really understand these hopes and fears, I’d like to tell you a little about my background.

My Biography

Birth and Immigration to the U.S.

My family immigrated to the U.S in the 1970s. when I was a preschooler.  My dad ran a little music and record shop in Karachi, Pakistan.  During that time, many in Pakistan were radicalized due to the war in Afghanistan with the Soviet Union.  My dad sold mostly British and American music — which did not sit well with the extremists.  One day, masked men he thinks were local police, stopped by his music store and told my dad to stop selling music, or “something bad” would happen.  Due to the fear of persecution, he closed his shop. He quickly realized that we had to leave, or be killed in the wave of radicalization sweeping the land.  We were, you see, the wrong kind of people — the kind that listened to Bob Dylan and supported Women’s education.  I was about 4 months old when he kissed me goodbye and left for Chicago.  My dad had some skill as a machinist and was able to find work in 1970’s Chicago.  He eventually landed a blue-collar, non-union job operating C.N.C. machines at a tool and die shop.  Additionally, he drove a taxi cab during the evening so he could save to bring his wife and kids here.  It took a couple of years, and I was around 3 years old when my mom and I arrived, during the days of Jimmy Carter as President.

Elementary School through High School.

My dad was a machinist without a college education.  My mom had an eighth-grade education and was a stay-at-home housewife.  Layoffs were common, as America’s “Rust Belt” was forming.  We were dirt poor, and my dad was often unemployed.  My dad drove around for years in a Ford Escort with tape for tail-lights and a crushed trunk.  We didn’t have cable T.V., or more importantly, health insurance.  I never got braces — or anything else — I needed as a kid.  We were fortunate as there were no major illnesses in the family such as cancer or heart disease.  If those had happened, or if we had lived in urban Chicago instead of the suburbs, I’d likely have had a different outcome — badly educated, poor, and at the edge of homelessness.  Even now, some of my friends who grew up near me are in jail, profoundly underemployed, or deceased.  Other have succeeded and have had a broad range of careers, including pilots!  It’s not as bad as it seems, as one can grow from the challenges he/she faces.  I learned early on in life — good public school where our kids are safe to learn matter.  They lift people out of despair.  What could my mom have accomplished in life with a high school education, or a college one?  One thing that environment taught me about good public schools — they can only exist with good government and at the right population density.  Bad government, especially corrupt government, leads to bad outcomes.  Where there is too much population density, and the schools do not get enough money (in any country or system) to help the sheer number of children who need it most.  Too little population density, and there aren’t enough talented educators available for the schools.  So, though we were poor, uninsured, stressed, and dealing with displacement, I was able to learn enough to begin the climb out.  I took English as a second language classes in kindergarten through third grade, and by fourth grade, was my class’s most advanced reader!  Mostly because I loved comic books, and the library had them.  To this day, Archie comics are still my favorite, followed by The Incredible Hulk.  I don’t really speak any Urdu any more, but maybe can ask for a glass of water.   As an aside, my Dad insisted on assimilation.  He hated that extremism had become the norm in Pakistan, and proudly drove GM and Ford cars for as long as he could.  He insisted that we speak English fluently and regularly, even at home.  He believed that we immigrants have an extra responsibility to be good neighbors in a country gracious enough to adopt us.  Certainly, we couldn’t commit crimes or accept government assistance!  We would live, or die, honorably.  So, by about the fifth grade, I was indistinguishable from any other person born in America.  I ran track and cross-country, was a bit of a computer nerd, and held various retail and restaurant jobs.  One major difference — my dad’s frequent unemployment and poor health forced him to move to Florida, while I stayed in the Chicago metro area to work and pay for groceries for both my mom and myself (we were still dirt poor) after the age of fifteen.  My mom reunited with my dad after I finished high school.  One hard lesson I learned — wage theft — when employers force you to under-report worked hours — happens to those who can barely afford to eat.  The take away lesson from these years were:  America is an amazing, open country, but it has some problems enforcing the laws that help its poorest citizens thrive.

Exiting Poverty

After I graduated high school, I went to college.  Then it ended, and I had no money for a place to live, and no job.  That left me homeless for about a month, “couch surfing” with friends and acquaintances.  That’s when I moved to Seattle — because there was a couch I could crash on.  Having lived in America’s rustiest cities, I was suddenly in Nirvana.  Chicago didn’t really have computer jobs, nor did Iowa or small-town Nebraska, back in those days.  I had worked at a help desk in college, and was able to program in multiple languages and  write code  de.  My technical skills allowed me to get as a contractor at Microsoft.    I eventually became a full time Microsoft employee.  I worked my way up over the years to managing a small build — aka “devops” engineering services — team, and the salary got me out of poverty.  Health insurance meant I could get braces, and some needed surgery.  This taught me — lack of health care is a crime against humanity.  So many people live in quiet desperation, afraid of an accident, cancer, or other disease — not because they’ll die — but because they’ll go bankrupt and destroy their families in the process of trying to live.  Even in ordinary cases — people will suffer and be held back from becoming productive members of society.  The other thing I learned — diversity is hard in tech.  When I became a manager, there weren’t any women or African Americans on the team I inherited, nor had there been while I was there.  Going to school in the suburbs of Chicago had shown me real discrimination “up close and personal”, and I learned first-hand how silently and invisibly it comes into being, and how it harms everyone — both the person being discriminated against, and the person doing the discriminating.  So, when there were openings on my team, I sought out qualified African-Americans and women for roles.  I openly talked about how our group was better off with them, and how the lack of differing views created sub-optimal processes.  I was able to make my team not only more diverse, but make our processes better, through that strength.  We became the best team in Microsoft, and I won a “Hero” award — something I’m still proud of today.  I did other things at MS, but none so meaningful to me personally.  Oh, and I did go back and get my college degree.  I graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in BA Economics, a certificate in Econometrics (aka Data Science), and am a member of the Omicron Delta Epsilon Honor’s society.  I have a wife and two young kids at home, and a Senior soon to be with us.  One child goes to elementary school in Kirkland, and the other is in daycare, also in Kirkland.  I run a small artificial intelligence company, where we’ve built a voice assistant for elder care.

Why I’m running.

So, back to the original question – why am I running?  I’m running because I believe in honest government, free from conflict of interest – even the appearance of conflict of interest.  I believe in law and order, and feel crimes should be punished objectively, and more attention paid to victims and their needs.  I believe that people who have lived in poverty are best equipped to understand and fight it.  I believe that Kirkland is a place where content of character matters more than the color of one’s skin.  I believe in measured growth, so that we don’t pave paradise and put up a parking lot.  I believe that we need great services for our seniors, and should focus more on their needs in the community.  Kirkland is growing and changing, and I believe I am the best bridge between the Kirkland of today and the Kirkland of tomorrow.  At a city level, I feel the city should allow residents with “strange curbs” to install curb cuts if wanted.  To make housing more affordable to build, I believe that the city should investigate closed wall inspections with photographic proof.  I feel the city process for handling dangerous trees should be improved, rather than aggressively fining homeowners for removing dangerous trees.  I feel the four hour parking zone on Market Street should be removed, to allow better access to the transit stops there and relieve pressure on our overcrowded park and rides.  I see that parents need a crosswalk on 84th St Ne and 139th, instead of jaywalking with their children in the mornings, for both the safety of the children and to improve traffic flow when school starts.  I believe that we need to focus more on both education and job growth for our citizens and children, and would support a business incubator in the area near the Municipal court building.  When I view the online videos of City Council meetings, I have observed that the public is mostly ignored.  I feel that this agenda can only be heard if I’m on the council.

Thanks,
Imran Peerbhai
Citizen running for Council.

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